Sunday, 6 December 2015
Goodnight Mommy (2014) - Horror Film Review
The Fright Meter Awards Committee have been going on about how good Goodnight Mommy (Ich Seh, Ich Seh) is for ages now and I so I thought a view was in order. This is an Austrian horror from directors and writers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz and may just be the most straight up horror I have seen in a while.
Twins Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Schwarz) live at a remote home deep in the Austrian countryside with their mother (Susanne Wuest) who has recently returned from having cosmetic surgery done. However the heavily bandaged woman acts far meaner and differently than the boys remember and soon they start to fear she is an impostor, but just what lengths will they go to to prove she is not who she says she is?
Goodnight Mommy falls into the category of straight horror, there are no jokes or light hearted scenes to provide relief from the tension and uncertainty that pervades this moody piece. Initially I thought this was far more a drama but was soon proven wrong. Though this is German (with subtitles) there really is not much dialogue at all, the minimal cast and the directors love of long silent shots of the two boys playing make for what could be seen as a bit too much of a drag, not enough going on but for me this just added to the weird atmosphere.
While there are a handful of supporting actors for the most part it is just the creepy trio. The mother immediately unsettles, her head bandages and bruised skin provide the visual uncomfortableness but the way she acts is also disturbing. She seems to not know things she really should, she frequently looses her temper and imposes a series of bizarre rules. She seems hesitant to show the twins what she looks like under the bandages which adds to their suspicions, while all photos of her are missing from the walls and photo albums. This weirdness is shown out of the perspective of the twins also, at one point she fakes being asleep when Elias wants to tell her something, at another point she sneaks out the house and heads into the nearby woods where she strips naked and starts screaming. It is very apparent that something is really not right with this possible impostor. On the other side though the two boys are just as unsettling in their own ways. They hardly ever speak to each other but seem to know what each other is thinking, they collect cockroaches, and after the stray cat they rescued ends up mysteriously dead they place it's body in a reptile tank full of chemicals in the front room as they suspect their mum had killed it. The whole family is very strange, all have issues.
Goodnight Mommy is quite a disturbing film and has some really messed up moments including someone getting their lips super glued shut, as well as many scenes involving cockroaches (at one point one of the disgusting insects crawls inside the mouth of the sleeping mother) which made me squirm quite a bit. With all three of the main cast being so odd I just had no idea what would end up happening, while I didn't particularly like the boys I still feared for their safety, after all they are just two nine year olds and so not able to defend themselves. At one point they run away only to be brought back home due to no adults believing their tale, a sequence that made my heart sink for them. This is actually a re imagining of Asian horror A Tale of Two Sisters so I don't know how closely it follows that one but plot wise it's not too dense, a lot of the film having filler shots, usually of the two boys playing together. When the ending comes around it was something that I had seen before but was well done and effective, I will say that the very last scene just wasn't needed though and felt out of place with the films general tone.
Plot wise I had a few issues, the way the mother acts is very weird, her actions especially later on in the film are just plain confusing and seem to be there just to make events play out a certain way. A sequence in which two Red Cross busy bodies invite themselves into the families home seems to exist only for the goal of making suspense, though having read some message boards it seems random strangers inviting themselves into peoples homes is not such a odd thing in the countryside of Austria.
Overall Goodnight Mommy was a decent horror that managed to build and maintain an oppressive paranoid atmosphere that made me as a viewer unsure of just what was really happening. This is subtly disturbing with a pervading sense of unease that is indeed warranted, a true horror.